Pure Poison (Pure #1)

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8.

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I was prepared to impress. Today I was going to be the best wife any Capo had ever had, I would make everyone burn in jealousy as they tasted my delicious food, licking their fingers clean. I had not even gone the easier route. That’s not me. I had been slaving in the kitchen for hours preparing the best of the dishes, an entire eight-course meal with vegetarian to non-vegetarian varieties. And I still looked like a beautiful sensual angel after that.

Manicotti, pork shoulder with braciola ragu, paella, pot coq au vin was just a few followed by the richest of the lemon meringue pie. I could kill them all with food, without poisoning. That’s how good it was.

I stared at myself in the mirror, a halter neck red gown adorning my body. I looked like a siren, even my hair was styled into those glamourous Hollywood curls. I applied a bright red lipstick on my lips. Rafael walked out of the bathroom; a towel wrapped around his waist. I gave him a withering look before turning the attention to myself. I pinned a stray hair and bounced my hair.

“You look more delicious than the food you cooked,” Rafael said.

“Don’t try to flatter me, Rafael,” I whisper.

“Can’t a husband offer a genuine compliment,”

“There is nothing genuine about you, I liken you to a fraud.”

“Are we back to square one again? I told you that my revenge was with your grandfather….”

“And it was my feelings which got hurt. He is not here to cry, he is dead. Six feet under. You are three years late, Raffaello,”

“Tina, don’t be upset please,”

“I am not.” I walk to him and place my hands on his shoulders. “You don’t have to ask for my forgiveness. You are a Capo, why giving me so much importance?”

“You are my wife, my equal. Not beneath me. And I want to be able to kiss you with your permission,”

“You are too genteel, Rafael. Also, we have to keep a romantic front at the dinner tonight, I think you will be kissing me a lot.”

“I am looking forward to it,” Rafael said. He leaned in, but I moved away. I pecked his cheek and walked out of the room.

Stepping down into the living area, I walked towards the kitchen. All the food was ready and getting heated up. I saw a lady hovering over the wine cabin.

“The ones from Bordeaux,” I say.

The lady turns to me. She has olive skin, her hair tied into a tight bun. Her features are sharp.

“Mrs Morretti,”

“And who may you be?”

“I am Nancy, the new maid,”

I nod. Something about her seems odd, but I don’t dwell on it. I walk towards the dining table. The china is arranged beautifully, the cutlery laid out correctly. I walk towards the bar and do a once over of all the beverages and glasses.

“Everything seems perfect, ma’am,” Nancy said.

The bell rang, and I hear the elevators opening. I see Rafael walking down the stairs at the same time. He places a hand on my waist. The first to enter is Lorenzo followed by Christian. Christian winks at me, earning a glare from Rafael.

“Valentina,” the severe underboss greets me with a peck on the cheek.

“Valentina.” Christian does the same.

“The others haven’t arrived, it seems,” Lorenzo says.

“They haven’t, Enzo. Are the shipments at the docks?”

“Will set sail today, the next batch is ready as well. The Ricci have some shipments as well that need to be sent,”

“Try adjusting it with our shipment, is it the one to Ukraine?”

“It is,”

“Yes, then adjust the shipment with ours,”

My ears are perked up. I turn to Christian and smile at him. We walk towards the living area.

Soon the house is full of guests. My parents are also here, talking to some members of the Morretti clan. My father’s face is bright as he laughs boisterously. My mother titters too, submissive as usual. I hook my arm with Raffaello’s and walk to them.

“There they are, my beautiful daughter and son-in-law!”

“How are you, Father?”

“My sweet Valentina, I am doing great. The married life agrees with you, you look radiant,” Silvano says.

“I agree with your father,” Lily says and proceeds to kiss my cheek.

“Thank you,” I whisper.

Silvano and Raffaello share a nod. I see Rafael’s eyes glint with evil intent. I know what is to happen. My parents are going to get humiliated, and even I have not had much affection for them over the years, but I still feel sad.

Rafael strides towards the centre of the living area. I turn to my parents, who seem to look confused.

“Thank you very much for joining us. But before you dine, there is an important announcement that I must share with all of you,” Rafael said.

“As we all know, the job of an Associate to that of a Capo is perilous. Fraught with challenges and obstacles. It is important to strategise and to have a logical head on one’s shoulder. That job is fulfilled by the consigliere. Today, the Morrettis need a consigliere.”

My father stood taller, expecting his name.

“Selecting a Consigliere is important. Therefore, from this day forth, I will have my eyes on everyone worthy of that title. Beware, I will be extra vigilant,” Rafael chuckled, and others joined him.

“What is he talking about?” Lily whispered to Silvano, “he said he would give you the position.”

My father didn’t say anything, but I saw the humiliation on his face. My heart wrenched, and suddenly my anger for the Morrettis returned hundredfold. I stared at Rafael with a wave of silent fury.

“I cannot believe this,” I whisper, “I am married to a man who betrayed my father.”

Silvano turns to me, his eyes are glistening with unshed tears, and I hold his hand in a tight grip.

“You know what he has done, don’t you?” I say.

“Valentina…”

“Rafael has betrayed us. This is what he wanted, no Ricci involvement. Now he will rule both the Morretti and the Ricci!”

“You are right, I wish I had known of this,”

“It is all right. It is all going come back to those it rightfully belonged, don’t worry,”

Rafael raises his glass, and we all follow. Soon the party moves to the dining table, everyone is seated. Christian and Lily on either side of me. I see everyone eating, some have already taken a second serving. I am calm, there is enough food for everyone here.

“So, the search for the consigliere is on,” Christian mutters beside me.

“Who do you think will qualify for it?”

“None of the Morretti elders are fit for the role. They are simply not relevant anymore, their ideas and strategies are outdated, we need someone who is technologically able, and has the experience in this field,”

“Do you have any experience here?”

“I was a Navy Seal. I have done my engineering from MIT. I guess I do have the qualifications, and I have also been involved with numerous operations all highly classified and dangerous,”

“You also seem to be cool-headed. I think you are perfect for the role of consigliere,”

“Valentina, you have stolen the words from my mouth. I have mulled over this time and again, and I feel I am the perfect candidate for consigliere. But the point is, I am young, barely thirty and there are many caporegimes who are better than me…”

“None of them come with a stronger folio than you have faith Christian. I will also put in a word for you,”

“Thank you, and you are right. In fact, I think I will be disappointed with Rafael if he doesn’t choose me. I know he is your husband and all…”

“You wouldn’t be the first person to be disappointed, do not worry.”

Christian snickers and I join him. He is a good person but a pawn nevertheless. I turn my head towards Lorenzo and Rafael, they are holding a conversation, and my father is trying to get involved in it, but they are smoothly ignoring him. I bristle. How dare they insult a Ricci?

“The Ricci shipment will be adjusted with ours,” Lorenzo confirms.

I furrow, haven’t they had that conversation already?

“The shipment is too big to be adjusted with another,” my father says, but Lorenzo ignores him.

“I agree,” Rafael says.

“Raffaello with all due respect, our shipment consists of some very precious stuff, and that simply cannot be adjusted with your shipment,”

Raffaello dared to roll his eyes and turned to Silvano.

“Silvano, do you not trust me?”

My father sputtered, not knowing what to answer.

“It is not that, Rafael… I am just afraid,”

“Don’t be, Silvano. Your ‘precious’ shipment will reach its destination safe and sound,”

I bit my lip from saying something snarky. I had to do something.

“Mom, I need to go to the loo,” I say to Lily and quickly walk to my room.

Closing the door after me, I walk to my wardrobe. I am wearing the dress I had given to Mimi for the so-called alteration. I open the lid of its box and pick a phone out. It is a burner phone, untraceable. I haven’t yet been informed of a secure communication line. I quickly dial Joe. He picks up after the second ring.

“Joe, send the apple pie,”

“Roger,”

I keep the phone down and turn around, only to find Nancy standing there.

“What are you doing in my room?”

“You wanted a communication method, here I am,”

“Excuse me?”

“I am a Ricci associate, is what I am saying. Riccardo sent me here upon Capo Joe’s insistence,”

“How can I trust you?”

“Ask me anything,”

“How many Ricci daggers exist in the world?”

“Four were built, but only one exists right now, and it is strapped to your thigh,”

I nod.

“Is there anything that you want me to do?”

“The job’s been done, but you will have your hands full in the next few weeks,”

Nancy nods and leaves the room.

I sigh and walk out of the room. The dinner is almost done, Nancy brings in the Lemon Meringue Pie. I see Lorenzo taking a huge piece, and I want to smack him with a spatula. He is a misogynist through and through, only thinks that women exist for mere household work. I take my seat and serve myself a piece.

“I will have to leave,” Christian says.

“What happened?”

“I am in charge of the shipment, tonight, it needs to reach Ukraine safely,”

“I know you will do a terrific job at it, nothing less can be expected from the future consigliere,”

***

The dinner is over, I am laying down on the bed and Rafael joins me, disgust swirls my heart.

“You made the announcement for the consigliere,” I whisper while applying lotion on my leg.

“I did, it is going to be a tough few weeks, but we need one desperately,” Rafael says, staring at me.

“I understand, I do have a few suggestions of my own,”

“Really? Who are they?”

“Angelo and Alessio, they were two of my father’s closest aides. I am thinking Lorenzo too,”

“What about Christian?” Raphael asks.

“He is very qualified, and that is an understatement in itself, but I am still not satisfied with him as a nominee,”

“Why not?”

“Christian may be exceptionally qualified, but he is young, there are certain experiences which define a person, and I feel he simply doesn’t have that; he needs to grow more.”

“I disagree, Tina. Christian’s strategies are the best,”

“You are making a novice mistake, Christian is too young, his time to make mistakes is right now. He will learn from these mistakes and grow as a person…”

“That’s enough, Tina. You have not worked with Christian, you will not understand,”

“Okay, but remember my words, he is not ready yet,” I whisper to myself.

I am so ready for Max to get served with the best Apple Pie today.

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